10.1 Routine communication

The main purpose of routine communication is to gather data, which is part of the epicyclic process for each core activity. You gather data by communicating your results and the responses you receive from your audience should inform the next steps in your data analysis. The types of responses you receive include not only answers to specific questions, but also commentary and questions your audience has in response to your report (either written or oral). The form that your routine communication takes depends on what the goal of the communication is. If your goal, for example, is to get clarity on how a variable is coded because when you explore the dataset it appears to be an ordinal variable, but you had understood that it was a continuous variable, your communication is brief and to the point.

If, on the other hand, some results from your exploratory data analysis are not what you expected, your communication may take the form of a small, informal meeting that includes displaying tables and/or figures pertinent to your issue. A third type of informal communication is one in which you may not have specific questions to ask of your audience, but instead are seeking feedback on the data analysis process and/or results to help you refine the process and/or to inform your next steps.

In sum, there are three main types of informal communication and they are classified based on the objectives you have for the communication: (1) to answer a very focused question, which is often a technical question or a question aimed at gathering a fact, (2) to help you work through some results that are puzzling or not quite what you expected, and (3) to get general impressions and feedback as a means of identifying issues that had not occurred to you so that you can refine your data analysis.

Focusing on a few core concepts will help you achieve your objectives when planning routine communication. These concepts are:

  1. Audience: Know your audience and when you have control over who the audience is, select the right audience for the kind of feedback you are looking for.

  2. Content: Be focused and concise, but provide sufficient information for the audience to understand the information you are presenting and question(s) you are asking.

  3. Style: Avoid jargon. Unless you are communicating about a focused highly technical issue to a highly technical audience, it is best to use language and figures and tables that can be understood by a more general audience.

  4. Attitude: Have an open, collaborative attitude so that you are ready to fully engage in a dialogue and so that your audience gets the message that your goal is not to “defend” your question or work, but rather to get their input so that you can do your best work.